SBC Life Articles

The Definition of God:

A growing battle over the doctrine of God may "dwarf' the biblical inerrancy controversy of recent years, according to the editor of a new theological journal.

The orthodox definition of God is the topic of the inaugural issue of The Southern Baptist journal of Theology, to be published quarterly by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

"American Christianity is currently locked in a struggle over the doctrine of God that in time may well make the battle for the Bible of the past twenty years look small in comparison," Paul House asserted. "Its implications are far reaching for all denominations, and no group that ignores this theological issue will survive with its ecclesiastical integrity and doctrinal purity unscathed."

Who is God? Is God fully sovereign? Is God able to do anything? Is God limited in some way? These questions and others are at the heart of the growing theological controversy, House said.

Appointed last fall by President R. Albert Mohler Jr., House is professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, Louisville, Ky. He previously taught ten years at Taylor University, Upland, Ind. Mohler chose House in October to serve as the journal's first editor.

"For centuries Christians have agreed upon such biblical concepts as God's sovereignty, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience," House said. "Believers generally assumed that members of other faith traditions were convinced that God does not change because God is inherently perfect and therefore not in need of alteration, evolution, or growth."

Such assumptions can no longer be taken for granted, House said.

Unlike the inerrancy battle in which evangelicals were basically united, the crisis over the doctrine of God is heightened by the advocacy of heterodox definitions among some who call themselves evangelicals, House said.

An example of the doctrinal confusion on the subject among Baptists is Mercer University President Kirby Godsey's recent book, When We Talk About God … Let's Be Honest, House noted. Although the topic of the first journal was chosen before its release, House said the Godsey book "illustrates the need" for the new theological journal.

"As much as I might disagree with someone who doesn't agree with my doctrine of inspiration, fifteen years ago we were not disagreeing with a lot of folks on God," House said, noting how dramatically the theological landscape has changed in recent years.

The battle over the doctrine of God is no "ivory tower" debate among academicians alone but will impact churches and believers in the pews, House contended.

This issue 'will require pastors, teachers, and laypeople to be more vigilant in their understanding of what's going on. I fear unless we are vigilant, our churches will be greatly weakened," House warned. "It's going to affect laypeople's faith and ability to deal with evil and suffering, their prayer life, and their approach to their own theology."

    About the Author

  • James A. Smith